Mourners at the funeral of comedian Bobby Ball have worn his trademark red braces in honour of him.
Fans lined the street outside Hope Church in Lytham, Lancashire, to pay their final respects to the Cannon & Ball star, who died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on 28th October after testing positive for Covid-19.
His comedy partner Tommy Cannon was among the mourners at the service, which was private and invite-only due to coronavirus restrictions.
A table with a book of condolence, hand sanitiser and donation box for the Blue Skies Hospital Fund and Lowther Pavilion was set up on the pavement where fans gathered.
Tony Callison, who was among those lining the streets, said he used to drink with Ball in local bar The Sunday Club.
He said: “You had a good laugh when he was in because you couldn’t not. He was a true gent and a funny man but he was also very helpful.
“I had a hard time last year where I needed help and Bobby was there for me as if he was a friend.
“He still had an awful lot to give, it wasn’t his time.”
Zoe Robertson, who owns apartments which Ball stayed in with wife Yvonne when he moved to Lytham, said: “They were just the nicest people ever and since they’ve been in Lytham they’ve just become part of the community.
“He was one of the kindest guys. He will be so missed and it is so sad.
“He couldn’t help himself from telling jokes.
“In the last lockdown we used to see him sitting on his bench and he would always have a joke.”
Memorial cards left outside the service said Ball was a deeply loved husband and an adored grandfather and great-grandfather.
They read: “A much-loved friend to many and a hugely respected character within the local community.
“Things Bob loved…his family, friends, being creative, making people happy, entertaining, music and a chilled glass of Chardonnay!
“He will be truly missed by all who knew him.”
Floral wreaths reading “Bob” and “Grandad” were laid in the hearse with the coffin.
Ball, born Robert Harper on 28th January 1944 in Oldham found fame as part of double act Cannon & Ball in the 1970s and 80s but won over new fans playing Lee Mack’s troublesome father Frank in the BBC One sitcom Not Going Out from 2009.
Following his death, Cannon said: “I’m absolutely devastated, I’ve lost my partner, my best friend and the funniest man I know.”
In comments made to Premier, one of Ball's close friends talked candidly about the comedian's journey to faith. "I was there when Bobby was searching for a meaning to life and helped him through those initial stages of checking all sorts of things out and when he found that, for him, Christ was the answer," Chris Gidney explained.
Gidney knew Bobby for over 30 years and said he saw a "phenomenal" transformation when Bobby was born again: "I mean if you've ever seen a change in somebody, like a St Paul conversion, it was Bobby Ball. I mean absolutely phenomenal in so many different ways, particularly in lifestyle. Don't forget, Bob and Tom came from simple working class backgrounds, [then] suddenly, overnight, literally, they are top of the tree, earning more than anybody else in show business at that time and of course, it went to their heads and they did everything that they wanted to do and had the money to spend left, right and centre and in some ways, it was pretty devastating on their lives.
"But for Bobby, it made him refocus on: what is life about? He suddenly became so passionate about God, he loved to talk about God - hence us doing these gospel tours. We did a 47 day tour across the UK once and Bobby became a preacher! He loved preaching! And of course, he was so funny all the time.
"He was never ashamed of his faith in public because it has such an effect on him, a dramatic effect in his lifestyle and his family. And it changed it so much that he couldn't have one foot in the commercial camp and one foot in the Gospel camp. He was just like a stick of Blackpool rock - you break Bobby and the word Jesus runs all the way through the middle!
"He just wanted to tell everybody. I remember him saying something like, 'Look, if you go down to a local supermarket and they've got coffee on half price you tell your mates, you tell all your friends "Hey, get down to the supermarket! There's coffee on half price!"' he could not hold back talking about his faith and the difference it made."
With reporting from PA.